V(D)J recombination is initiated by RAG-1 and RAG-2, which introduce double-strand DNA breaks at recombination signal sequences (RSSs) of antigen receptor gene segments to produce signal ends, terminating in blunt, double- strand breaks, and coding ends, terminating in DNA hairpins. While the formation of RAG-RSS complexes has been documented, observations regarding the individual contributions of RAG-1 and RAG-2 to RSS recognition are in conflict. Here we describe an assay for formation and maintenance of functional RAG-RSS complexes in the course of the DNA cleavage reaction. Under conditions of in vitro cleavage, the RAG proteins sequester intact substrate DNA in a stable complex which is formed prior to strand scission. The cleavage reaction subsequently proceeds through nicking and hairpin formation without dissociation of substrate. Notably, the presence of both RAG-1 and RAG-2 is essential for formation of stable, functional complexes with substrate DNA under conditions of the sequestration assay. Two classes of substrate mutation are distinguished by their effects on RAG-mediated DNA cleavage in vitro. A mutation of the first class, residing within the RSS nonamer and associated with coordinate impairment of nicking and hairpin formation, greatly reduces the stability of RAG association with intact substrate DNA. In contrast, a mutation of the second class, lying within the RSS heptamer and associated with selective abolition of hairpin formation, has little or no effect on the half-life of the RAG-substrate complex.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology